Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teaching Charity

In the United Kingdom, a manifesto from the Community Foundation Network has called for the teaching of charity in schools to achieve “a long term shift in the culture of philanthropy in the UK.” This means that an organization of community groups is calling on the national government to get involved in promoting charitable behavior in children in the public schools.

It got me thinking: Could this happen in the United States?

In one sense, it is, in that President Obama has made a call to Americans to serve our communities, but that's a general "be a good citizen" type of thing, and by no means is it a lesson plan, heaven forbid. We saw how well that went over when the president just wanted to say "Welcome back!" to our nation's schoolchildren.

On, there is a link that includes ideas for starting a service project, and the education components are "read to kids," and "start a bookdrive." Both good ideas, but hardly earth-shattering curricular innovations.

I poked around online a bit, to look into this idea of children and philanthropy. I found a bookmark to an article I read back in July. I thought it was great, but I was not sure to do with it. An 11-year-old boy walked 59 days and 668 miles to bring attention to the cause of homelessness. He said it was tiring, but "then I thought about the kids who do not get to quit being homeless.” The Philanthropy Project, an organization devoted to enhancing citizen philanthropy, followed Mr. Bonner and plans to make a movie about him.

If this were my kid, I would be so smug with pride that I would be unbearable. My kid is 16 months old, and his charitable acts are sharing raspberries (that I picked) and small chunks of cheese (that I cut). He is also willing to show me his toys and even let me hold them for short periods of time.

But I would like him to grow up with a sense of social justice and civic responsibility, and charity is a first step down that road.

How do we teach charity and philanthropy to kids? Can it be taught at all? Is this even a subject for the public schools? Many would argue that only religious schools can approach such topics, insisting that they are grounded in morality and therefore are the purview of religious traditions, and that public institutions should not be pushing morality.

I disagree.

I think that learning to be a good citizen is smack dab in the center of public education, and morality and ethics are human traits. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson's ideas on public education form much of the basis for the beginning of our system here in the United States, and the Common School movement of the 19th century believed that public education could create a united, moral citizenry, helping to prevent crime and poverty. (It was greatly due to this movement that a free elementary education became available to all American children regardless of wealth or religion.)

One need not talk about religion to teach civic responsibility and charity. In public schools, the Socratic method can be used in many different subjects to begin talking about what it means to be a "good citizen," and there are often ways to localize even the broadest topics. Of course, each teacher, knowing his or her students and their general demographics, will best know how to approach the subject, bearing in mind that some students may already be recipients of charity.

I would be pleased if my child were being taught about charity school, not only when it is understood as "generosity and helpfulness," but in a broader sense, of "benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity." We are already working on it, trying to teach about sharing and getting him to stop hitting the cat.

The sharing bit may prove easier to tackle.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I think it's reprehensible for what is supposedly the "mainstream" of the republican party to be sitting on their hands while the birthers, death panelers, and other hate-mongers spread their outright lies. They are facilitating the spread of this nonsense through their silence.

I am trying to think of a present example on the left that would further explain this to a broader audience, but it eludes me at the moment... I can only hope that if the democrats began heaping on absurdity in the same manner, I would have the sense to speak out, and I would expect the same of my democratic representatives.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


If I lost my job, and babywhumpus and I had to switch to daddywhumpus' insurance, and then daddywhumpus lost his job, and we had to try to afford buying insurance for the boy, at least, would a company insure babywhumpus? I think "extreme prematurity" might be a pre-existing condition.

Just wondering out loud...
I am becoming thoroughly exhausted with the idiocy often displayed in this country.

Friday, September 11, 2009

This Day in History

September 11, 1609. According to some records, English explorer, Henry Hudson, working for the Dutch, lands on Manhattan Island, marking the beginning of the Dutch colony that would become New Netherland. Fort Amsterdam, on the tip of the island, would eventually become the city of New York. New Netherland was a company owned and operated business venture of the Dutch West India Company.

September 11, 1773. Benjamin Franklin’s “Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One” is published, listing twenty ways in which a powerful government can reduce its might, including odious taxation, the appointment of ineffectual cronies as official representatives, and restricting the rights of citizens: “However peaceably your Colonies have submitted to your Government, shewn their Affection to your Interest, and patiently borne their Grievances, you are to suppose them always inclined to revolt, and treat them accordingly.”

September 11, 1906. Mahatma Gandhi addresses mass meeting of Indians at Johannesburg, and takes an oath of passive resistance against a newly promulgated Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance which subjects all Indians to compulsory registration and identification by means of finger prints. Registration Certificates (Passes) were to be carried at all times and produced on request to a police officer under penalty of fines or imprisonment.

September 11, 1941. Construction begins on The Pentagon.

September 11, 1943. The liquidation of the Minsk and Lida ghettos begins. In Minsk, one and half-square meters (about 12 square feet) were measured out per person, not including children, and it is estimated that 100,000 people died over the course of the three years of the ghetto’s existence.

September 11, 1944. The first allied troops of the US Army cross the western border of Nazi Germany. The allied bombing raid on Darmstadt and the following firestorm left 12,300 dead, 70.000 homeless, 78% of inner city area destroyed, and only 50,000 inhabitants.

September 11, 1962. The Beatles record their debut single, “Love Me Do.”

September 11, 1978. U.S. President Jimmy Carter, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel meet at Camp David and agree on a framework for peace between Israel and Egypt and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

September 11, 1987. Three armed men break into reggae musician Peter Tosh’s Kingston estate and murder him and a friend, wounding four others. He had just released his album “No Nuclear War” for which he would be awarded a posthumous Grammy.

September 11, 1990. President George H. W. Bush delivers a nationally televised speech in which he threatens the use of force to remove Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait.

September 11, 2001. Three hijacked planes destroy the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,829 people, and part of The Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, killing 189. A fourth hijacked plane crashes into a rural area hear Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 44.

September 11, 2006. In Baghdad, a suicide bomber blows himself up inside a minibus full of Iraqi army recruits, killing 13 people and wounding seven.

September 11, 2006. A married couple sits on the couch in their livingroom before work. The air outside has been changing, making the switch to fall, and they hold their warm tea mugs in chilly hands. The husband asks the wife what kind of tea she is having, looking down into its amber steaminess, and she says “Earl Grey. Hot.” He laughs, then she laughs. “I like these weird little gourd mugs that James bought for our wedding,” she says. “Good,” he says.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If I were a guy, and I apologized like this, I don't think I'd be gettin' any.

“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.”-Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)

Translation: I'm not really sorry, but I got in trouble, and the grown-ups made me say this. And to prove that I am not really sorry, I am going to repeat the lie within my "apology" just so I can get it out there one more time.

Ahem. Mr. Wilson, you don't get to "disagree" with a fact.

Should Congress have bothered to formally admonish him? Perhaps not. But it was awfully classy of President Obama to accept this forced and lame "apology."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Boys and Girls, the President of the United States

OK, America. Pull your head out.

At least, those of you who have your collective panties in a bunch over the POTUS wanting to address public school children on their first day of classes. Were I Mr. Obama, I would be screaming in the shower nightly over the hateful insanity running rampant through this country.

Can you imagine? You are thinking how nice it would be to welcome kids back to school, wish them luck, and remind them how important a good education is. You feel that, as the leader of the country who in fact has two school-aged children, it's your duty to be a good example.

And then this hot mess happens.

President Obama, I would like you to know that I wish my boy were old enough to be in school to hear your speech, and I might make him watch it anyway, even though he will be more interested in his blocks because he's only 15 months old.

To me, it makes sense for the POTUS to address school children, regardless of his political affiliation. He's the commander-in-chief; the man. Why should he not check in to say "Hi, how's it going? Good luck!" Like it or not, he was elected, he is the president, and if you think that a short speech is going to "indoctrinate" your children, like, say, into being better citizens or listening to their teachers or caring for their fellow students (OH, the HORROR), then maybe your children need some help in the critical skills department.

Anyway, weren't public school children being bussed to some McCain/Palin campaign events? Was that OK?

In my mind, if you are going to use public resources to transport public school children to campaign events, then you would have to take the same children to events from both sides and do critical thinking exercises with them, which would be educational.

Pres. Obama's desire to address public school children on the first day of classes is a different situation, in that he is the duly-elected President of the United States of America, though teachers could still use critical thinking exercises to get kids to consider issues. Like the whole controversy itself.

Mr. Obama is the president. Deal with it.